Rocka Rolla is the debut studio album by English heavy metal band Judas Priest, released on 6 September 1974 by Gull Records. It was produced by Rodger Bain, who had made a name for himself as the producer of Black Sabbath's first three albums. It is the only album to feature drummer John Hinch.
|Studio album by|
|Released||6 September 1974|
|Studio||Island, Trident and Olympic Studios, London, England|
|Genre||Hard rock, blues rock, psychedelic rock|
|Judas Priest chronology|
|Singles from Rocka Rolla|
According to the band, the album was entirely played live, in studio (i.e. all musicians playing simultaneously as in a concert, vs. the more popular method of each musician's parts being recorded separately and then mixing them).
According to the band there were technical problems in the studio, resulting in poor sound quality and a hiss through the album. Guitarist Glenn Tipton had just joined when recording of Rocka Rolla began and did not contribute any songwriting except on the title track and "Run of the Mill". He did come up with the songs "Tyrant", "Epitaph", and "Ripper", but Bain considered them not commercial enough and rejected them. Bain also rejected the concert staple "Whiskey Woman" which later, with contributions from Tipton, morphed into "Victim of Changes". These songs were eventually all included on their next album, Sad Wings of Destiny. In addition, "Winter", "Deep Freeze" and "Winter Retreat" form a suite, but are listed as separate tracks and divided as such on the CD release.
"Dying to Meet You" contains a clear break before an unlisted song (often known as "Hero Hero") begins. It may be possible that the record company insisted on there being ten tracks on the album and would not allow for one more. Alternatively, this unlisted song may simply be the second half of "Dying to Meet You", as this is how the lyrics were printed on their 1978 Best of... compilation.
Several of the songs on the album feature contributions from the band's previous frontman Al Atkins and had been regular parts of their live performances in Manchester, where the band had achieved a cult following during the previous few years. The track "Caviar and Meths" was originally a 14-minute effort penned by Atkins, Downing, and Hill but due to time constraints, only the intro was recorded for the album. A longer version of the song appears on Atkins's 1998 album Victim of Changes. Though not the full-length version, it is notably longer at seven minutes. That album also contains covers of "Winter" and "Never Satisfied".
At this point of the band's career, they had not yet developed their signature look of leather and studs. They had appeared on a British television programme called The Old Grey Whistle Test in 1975, performing "Rocka Rolla" and "Dreamer Deceiver", and their wardrobe was very "hippified" as journalist Malcolm Dome put it. This footage was included on the Electric Eye DVD. In addition, the album is more blues/hard rock oriented than their later releases, and also has some slight progressive rock influences that would continue through to Stained Class, but to a lesser extent, and would be abandoned in later releases. This makes the album's style virtually unrecognizable when compared with later Priest albums, although "Rocka Rolla" does feature dual guitars and "Run of the Mill" is the first song that was explicitly designed for Halford's, rather than Atkins', vocal range.
Drummer John Hinch would be dismissed in 1975 before the next record was recorded. Tipton would later refer to him as being "musically inadequate" for the band's future plans.
The album was reissued several times over the years and in 1984 it was reissued with a different cover. The original "bottle cap" album cover art was initially intended by designer John Pasche for use with an unspecified Rolling Stones album. The band had filed a lawsuit with the Coca-Cola company. The re-issue cover art (by artist Melvyn Grant, and originally used as the cover for the novel The Steel Tsar) was also used for the US cover of Ballistix for the TurboGrafx-16 and Commodore Amiga.
Most of the songs from Rocka Rolla have not been performed by Judas Priest live since the mid-late 1970s, although Halford's solo band performed "Never Satisfied" during live shows in 2003, and the same song was part of the setlist of the Epitaph World Tour.
The tour for Rocka Rolla was Judas Priest's first international tour with dates in Germany, Holland, Norway and Denmark including one show at Hotel Klubben in Tønsberg, one hour from Oslo, Norway which scored them a somewhat negative review in the local press.
|Encyclopedia of Popular Music|||
The album was released to very little reception selling "only a few thousand copies". Because it flopped, the band found themselves in dire financial straits. In particular, they talked of nights in which they were starving and didn't know when they were going to get their next meal. They tried to enter into an agreement with Gull Records to pay them 50 pounds a week, but Gull, which was also suffering economic woes, refused. In a retrospective review, AllMusic gave Rocka Rolla a rating of 2.5 out of five stars, and said that while it was a "sketchy and underfocused debut", the album "definitely hints at Judas Priest's potential and originality".
|1.||"One for the Road"||Rob Halford, K. K. Downing||4:34|
|2.||"Rocka Rolla"||Halford, Downing, Glenn Tipton||3:05|
|3.||"Winter"||Al Atkins, Downing, Ian Hill||1:41|
|5.||"Winter Retreat"||Halford, Downing||3:28|
|7.||"Never Satisfied"||Atkins, Downing||4:50|
|8.||"Run of the Mill"||Halford, Downing, Tipton||8:34|
|9.||"Dying to Meet You/Hero, Hero"||Halford, Downing||6:23|
|10.||"Caviar and Meths" (Instrumental)||Atkins, Downing, Hill||2:02|
|11.||"Diamonds & Rust" (Joan Baez cover, 1975 recording)||Joan Baez||3:12|
The original UK LP has a longer version of "Rocka Rolla" than the version used for the US LP release, and most CD releases. It has an extra verse and chorus at the beginning of the song.
The very rare first printing of the UK LP has the words "Thanks for the words Al!" printed last in the credits in the blue circle on the back cover. This, presumably a reference to original singer Al Atkins, has been removed on other versions of the Gull vinyl.
On some versions of the CD release, "Rocka Rolla" is timed at 4:00 and "Winter" at 0:45, becoming a mashup but remaining on separate tracks. Some releases, e.g. Hero, Hero also combine "Winter", "Deep Freeze" and "Winter Retreat" into one track. The iTunes version combines those three plus "Cheater" into one track.
The version of "Diamonds & Rust" that appears on the re-release is actually from the Sad Wings of Destiny sessions and not the version that appears on Sin After Sin. It was probably included to provide interest in Rocka Rolla, an album that would have been unknown to many of the band's fans due to the band not playing songs from it live after the 1970s.
Rocka Rolla features Judas Priest's longest track, "Run of the Mill" (8:34), prior to "Cathedral Spires" from Jugulator (9:17) in 1997. It is also the longest track co-written by Halford, Downing and Tipton prior to "Lochness" from Angel of Retribution in 2005.
- Judas Priest
- Ian Hill – bass
- K. K. Downing – guitars
- Rob Halford – vocals, harmonica
- John Hinch – drums
- Glenn Tipton – guitars, synthesizers
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- "Newspaper cutting : Lydsjokk pa Klubben". Kkdowning.net. Archived from the original on 12 November 2013. Retrieved 19 May 2014.
- Huey, Steve. Rocka Rolla at AllMusic. Retrieved 1 July 2011.
- Larkin, Colin (2011). The Encyclopedia of Popular Music. Omnibus Press. ISBN 9780857125958. Retrieved 21 May 2019.
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